Words by Tim Cumming
Who says anians make you cry?
The Welsh band’s third album is a cohesive, interconnected set of original songs and carefully placed Welsh folk songs, including the 19th-century anti-slavery song ‘Si Hwi Hwi’, ‘Ambell Hiraeth’ (Homesickness) and the closing ‘Breuddwd Y Bard’ (The Poet’s Dream). All feature Lisa Jen’s vocals harmonising with harpist-singer Esyllt Glyn Jones and singer-pianist Mirain Roberts in layers of rich, breathy, abstract vocal patterns and Welsh language lyricism, set to a mix of Martin Hoyland’s guitar and hammered dulcimer, and Dan Swain’s electric and double bass.
Rage against human cruelty, adoration for the powers of nature, the sense of connection with and recognition of a soulmate or place from a distance, the relationship between a boy and a gift-giving crow, the story of a Russian boy raised and protected by dogs – all these themes and stories are set to limpid, live-in-the-studio explorations. They draw at times on the trip-hop of the 1990s but more often than not, from their own artesian well of improvisation. The music is accompanied by a spoken-word disc, featuring poets, writers, actors and artists including Maxine Peake, Peter Gabriel, Rhys Ifans and Iarla Ó Lionáird reinterpreting the songs. It’s an ambitious and involving set that pushes boundaries and opens the door to dark, passionate mediations on nature, human nature and the world that lies strewn between them.